Tag Archives: Hipster

The Relevant Generation

29 Jul

(I wrote this essay two years ago and revised it to fit on my blog.)

This is the relevant generation. We’ve been over-churched and hurt and jaded. We’ve been burnt out, but we’ve realized that it was people, not God. The worst insult is to be called “a pharisee” or to be fake. Religion is a disease to us. We have rejected the cheesy and un-hip. We laugh at those guys that are still “stuck in religion.” We aren’t afraid to cuss, smoke or drink a beer, and we prefer Chris Martin to Chris Tomlin. We are not our parent’s religion. We have rejected the Jesus of the suits and ties, of the organs and the doxology, and we have found the rebel Jesus that loves our tattoos and piercing and dares to refuse to vote republican.

We’re just trying to make sense of this life- to intellectualize, connecting people, bring some sort of peace and understanding. We love words like “story” and “conversation” and “authenticity” instead of the tired old rhetoric. We understand that Jesus cared about the poor, and in turn we care about them. We see the injustice in the world and our hearts break. So we “raise awareness” through art, music, benefit concerts. We “share the need” and get people to act- because real Jesus followers don’t sit on their butts and soak in a feel good prosperity gospel, that is disgusting.  We poke fun of those conservatives with their fancy cars, and suburban dreams, promising ourselves never to become that.  We like to support local coffee shops. We drink gallons of there coffee and discuss life. We love quoting Ghandi and Mother Theresa, and avoid Christian cliches like the plague. We are the next generation hippies, hipsters with our online communities, our Iphones and coffee shop churches. As hipsters, we are not so defined by what we are, but by what we are not, what we make fun of, what we are running from and rejecting.

But, I am afraid for my peers. I am afraid, in our rejection of  christian culture, we haven’t replaced it with anything else. Or maybe it’s just that what we’ve replaced it with, isn’t enough. Maybe we’ve replaced it with all these trendy, “world changing ideas,” but at the heart of it all, it’s still the same old dead thing- religion. Trying to accomplish something in order to be closer to God.

Social justice is our heartbeat. But is it enough to attempt to bring justice to the world through our actions? Even the phrase justice creates some conflict with the gospel of grace.  Do we really want justice? Do we know what we are asking for? Didn’t Jesus already satisfy justice on the cross? Aren’t we called to be representatives of grace, not only to those innocent kids being trafficked, but the ones doing the trafficking? Does God really want justice for those performing abortions? Where is the standard then, who is under justice, and who is not? There is a danger in categorizing the poor and homeless, instead of seeing them as people, we still see an agenda.

Those starving kids from Africa, there faces are everywhere, reminding us who really God loves, and how we have so much and need to live more simple, but do we see the girl behind the counter of the gas station?

It’s easy to love the drug addicts and despise televangelists, and feel like we are displaying the heart of Jesus, but is this really it?

We are empowered by cute sarcastic words, by abstract poetry, by deep discussions, by anything but the Holy Spirit. Or, like everything else, the Holy Spirit is something to be discussed and contemplated about, but not experienced. Experience is tricky, we don’t want to end up on the side of “freaky pentecostal” side of things, we don’t want to be a flake, this polar opposite of strict religion is just as despised. We don’t want some adrenaline rush, we don’t want out emotions to be manipulated. We learned through high school that emotions always lead you astray. We’ve learned through college that suffering is inevitable, that maybe embracing the darkness, will lead some some sort of light, some kind of healing.

But we long. We long like a thirsty man looking for an oasis. We are told to find balance in all things- and so we believe maybe that’s where happiness is found. Somewhere between the hype and the dogma, the fanatics and the rhetoric, that’s where we fit. That’s where Jesus is. We want meaning as much as a life partner. We want to know why more then we want success.

We question everything. The world is at our finger tips, we can do anything and go anywhere. We can know anything, literally in seconds. Just google it. I am afraid, in all our options, we still don’t have life.

We give selflessly, we go into the world, we create beauty, but do we know God? Even knowing itself has become so redefined, so ordinary, we have become jaded to the word. When information that has been hidden or unknown to most but a few select group of people for all of history, is suddenly available to everyone all the time, how does that re-wire us? Life is to know God, but do we know Him more like a facebook friend and less like a lover?

But how do you know God? Surely, it’s not the step by step formulaic religion we swallowed growing up in the church! We seek Him in the eyes of the poor, in giving of ourselves, in community, in creating something beautiful. And we do find parts of Him, we find His traces. Maybe that is enough, we decide.

Maybe our longing and depression is one of the colors of we dip our paintbrush in, to produce a painting of how we make sense of this life. Heartbreak is another.

The concept of grace is thrown in, a splattering of brightness on the emerging canvas, but it is just that- a concept.

We do love God. We are passionate for things to be made right. In our lives, our communities, our world. So we start causes, we try to make the gospel relevant, we tell stories, because that’s what Jesus did, right? We do this despite the tiredness that haunts our eyes. We fear deep down we are becoming our parents, burnt out and defeated, despite our youthful energy, despite all our promises to ourselves and to God.

We feel His unconditional love in these moments, but a gaping gash still remains in our souls. We’ve rejected religion, and replaced it with simplicity- but I am afraid we are still being fed instruction- “Here’s what you do – just love God and love people,” yet we can hardly love ourselves.

So, we’re left trying to solve world hunger, while our spiritual bellies groan for something more then a spoonful of processed grace.


Sentimental Schnitzel

15 Jun

Sometimes I feel like I am an “old soul.” Perhaps everyone has felt like that from time to time, especially those too self-aware for their own good. I long for more simple days. As many people do,  I wonder what it would be like to live in the world without technology.

Recently I went to this great German cafe with some friends. It was located behind a giant Half-Price book, a small yet famous bakery that only serves dinner on weekends. We walked in and it was like we had been transported out of Texas. (Sigh. Relief.)  A man in a lederhosen played German folk songs on his accordion. The cafe was full, people stuffed in every small corner, raising tall glasses of golden foaming beer and biting into their schnitzel.

We were some of the only people under sixty. As we devoured veal sausages and potato pancakes, We got a kick out of watching the wrinkled men tell each other tales, voices loud and authoritative, full of energy and humor. That place defined camaraderie. I looked around the room and imagined the stories that must rest inside each person, in the sparkle in their eyes when a special song played.

I thought about growing old, how I hoped I had a special place with people to raise our glasses and sing, how I hoped to hang onto life’s goodness and let the bad fade into the background.  It struck me, I sort of wanted to be them.

I used to be afraid of growing old, I didn’t want to lose the energy and excitement of youth, I didn’t want to be ugly, I didn’t want to die.  Why then did I find myself in that German cafe, nearly envying these grandparents who were reaching the end of the finish line?

Maybe I believe they have life figured out already. They’ve learned the lessons I still have to go through over and over again. They have gone through war, through loss, through instability and they are still standing. They have stood the tests of time.

Maybe because I know inherently some things only better with time, like wine, there is nothing you can do speed up the process. Healing from heartache. Relationships, that span years that are marked with sorrow and joy, holding on and letting go, gain and loss. You cannot manufacture these things instantly. The problem is, we always try.

Our society is marked with the idea of “Quick, cheap, and easy.” We don’t want the effort it takes to be in it for the long haul. My fear is this mentality is literally addicting, and nothing is ever enough.

Take information.  It used to be a process to know something. You had to get up off your couch and open up an actual book, dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus, or atlas.  You had to “phone a friend,” ask your grandma, ask an expert, ask someone who knew more then you did. It was a physical exchange, often a relational one. Now, it is impersonal and it is instant.

Don’t get me wrong. I love google. I love instant information as much as anyone. I want to know who that actor is in that movie I am watching NOW so instead of waiting for the credits in the end, I pull out my Iphone and use the IMDB app. Ta da! Magic.

This is why I am hypocrite. I have become a slave to the system but I long to be free from it. Sometimes I miss when phones were used to call people, when you had to read maps, when there was excitement in mystery in the not knowing. When you actually had to wait for things. Now I sound old.

Invention used to be about survival, but we have evolved beyond that. Now invention is about making our lives as comfortable and convenient as possible. It’s those C words that will slowly suffocate us.

Maybe our entire issue as a culture is summed up in our belief that comfort and convenience equals quality of life.

Maybe we are like spoiled brats because information is handed to us on a platter. We don’t have to work for anything anymore. Why the appeal with all things hipster, the obsession with “vintage”? We are slaves to instant gratification, but I don’t think we are willing to do what it takes to get free. That’s why we long for “the good old days” but probably wouldn’t have the life drive to do half the things our grandparents did. We are so soft.’

The reality is, I am always going to be miserable if I believe the level of my comfort and convenience is equal to the quality of life.

I am never going to have the satisfaction of sitting back and seeing something created after years of hard work.
I will never learn from my mistakes because I will be afraid or too lazy to make any.
I am never going to see the beauty on the other side of pain.
I will not be changed by the enduing fact that “love is patient.”

I am not suggesting an abandonment of technology. I use it every day, and I can see the benefit of it, but at the same time, I don’t want to forget how to read a book or walk in the woods or cook a meal from scratch. I need those things. I need to teach my children and grandchildren what it means to find satisfaction in a tough job done well and carefully. I don’t want to wish my life away with impatience.

And so, may we, as Sara Groves writes, “Find out the beauty of seeing things through.”
May we find freedom from the idea that everything needs to be quick, cheap and easy. May we run from that thinking as far and as fast as we can.

So in fifty years we may raise our glasses of beer to a life full of deep relationships, risk, adventure, creative endeavors, hard work,  and a lot of grace to keep us moving to the very end.

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